In a speech to Parliament today, Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt has called on the Government to support private sector investment projects that will generate employment opportunities today, and says the southern corridor of Cairns holds the key.

Speaking on the state planning regulatory provisions for the FNQ 2031 Regional Plan, Mr Pitt said the Far North is already facing an unemployment level well above the State average and action was needed now.

“We need to generate employment opportunities to help the local economy which has been heavily impacted by the collapse of the Hedley Group, the loss of the AIMTEK warship destroyer contract and CMC going into liquidation,” Mr Pitt said.

“The strategic planning processes underway like the FNQ 2031 Regional Plan and Mount Peter are important and we would all agree that a lack of planning has caused some problems in the past.

“But we should be wary of putting the brakes on development in the southern corridor and waiting until the Mount Peter Structure Plan is developed. This will deprive the local economy of the stimulus it desperately needs now to survive the impacts of the global economic downturn.

“Those who are willing to press ahead, despite the tough economic times deserve the Government’s full attention.

“I want to be clear that I do not support development at any cost. Good planning is about striking a balance in order to not only sustain the environment, but also foster economic development.

“My number one priority at the last election was the creation of jobs in Mulgrave and I will continue to do all that I can to support this commitment in the Far North.”

Mr Pitt said the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, which was passed by Parliament yesterday, was the vehicle that will give priority status to job-creating tourism projects, which will mean faster planning decisions.

“This means we will be able to cut through red tape for projects of the kind that create and retain jobs during these difficult economic times,” Mr Pitt said.

“However it’s vital that this priority status is given to large-scale projects, not only those in tourism, but in any sustainable industry that has the potential to provide a massive boost to employment in the regional economy.”

Mr Pitt acknowledged the good work by Cairns Regional Council and the State Government in finalising Edmonton Town Centre as a key sub-regional centre for the south of Cairns.

“The Minister for Infrastructure and Planning recently signed off on planning scheme amendments for Edmonton Town Centre which means we are a step closer to this project commencing,” Mr Pitt said.

“This will see Edmonton shift from being a dormitory suburb, still reliant on the rest of Cairns for employment. It will generate significant employment and may also reduce traffic congestion by removing the need for many people to travel daily into Cairns.

“But the time taken for some of the planning studies and the sometimes disjointed efforts of government agencies had not helped in other cases.”

Mr Pitt cited the proposed Edmonton Business and Industry Park as an example – a 212 hectare industrial and commercial development which was refused by Cairns Regional Council in April based on advice from Queensland Government agencies.

“I’ve followed with interest progress of the planned Edmonton Business and Industry Park, and I don’t agree with claims that the development would compromise planning outcomes in the southern corridor,” Mr Pitt said.

“A project of this scale would complement the Edmonton Town Centre development and reportedly has the potential to create up to 4,000 jobs during the construction phase, plus a similar number ongoing.

“Importantly, I’m told that the first sod could be turned within months of an approval, which is the kind of shovel-ready project we need in the current economic climate.

“Combined, these projects can provide a major catalyst for local employment and economic growth for the region.”

Mr Pitt said the proposed development was also announced as the preferred site for the Cairns GP Super Clinic in May this year.